What will happen if you don’t change your air filter?

A dirty air filter can be to blame for a huge amount of furnace and air conditioner problems. Some of the most common of those problems include:

  • High energy bills. A dirty air filter forces your air handler to work harder in order to push air through, which dramatically increases your system’s energy consumption.
  • Overheating and breakdowns. Because a dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder than it’s designed to, your system has the potential of overheating and breaking down.
  • Dirty air bypassing the filter. When return air is blocked by a dirty filter, that unfiltered air will redirect and bypass your filter. That means that dirt can build up on your system and its coils, and your home’s air will be less healthy to breathe.
  • Frozen coils. Since a dirty filter allows dirt to build up on your coils, your system will not be able to transfer heat as effectively and your coils can easily freeze over.


Pest Control: Experts Speak

While pest control is a service that many of us have made use of to protect our homes and offices, there seems to be an overwhelming lack of awareness about the same, with respect to everything from how one can rate the quality of the service, to the health, safety and environmental considerations one should take care of before employing a pest control service provider.

Keeping this scenario in mind, and given the tragedies that recently occured in the UAE owing to improper pesticide use, fmME went to some of the leading experts in the pest control industry to put together a list of general guidelines that customers for this line of service, be it home owners or facility managers, should carefully consider before employing the services of a pest control company. Find out what they told us in the next few pages.


This may seem like a pretty basic thing to do, but asking pest control service providers for proof of their commercial licenses and credentials should be the first thing one should be doing when scouting around for services of this nature.

“Only use a fully-licensed pest control service business,” says Baker, noting that customers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can make informed decisions in this matter by looking at the monthly grading lists from the Dubai Municipality Pest Control Section and the Abu Dhabi Centre for Waste Management, which regulate and monitor the performances of pest control businesses.

In addition, customers should also keep an eye out for the chemicals that pest control companies use in their operations. “Ask for the actual municipality-approved document for the chemicals,” says Tate. “As standard, we are required to provide that to every commercial client, and we are obliged to share that with domestic clients as well, if they do wish.”

Even the technicians employed by the pest control company should come under your scrutiny—pest control operators are allowed to work in this field only if they have passed a test carried out by Dubai Municipality. “Just because a pesticide may be approved by the local authority doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Baker notes. “A relatively safe product could become dangerous in the hands of an untrained technician who is using inadequate equipment.

SOURCE: constructionweekonline



Nearly all tenants in Dubai face maintenance issues

Most common problems are faulty air conditioning units, bursting water pipes, defective water heater

Dubai: Eight in ten tenants in the UAE encountered maintenance problems, such as faulty air conditioning units and water heaters, in their rented apartment during the first half of the year, a new survey found.

Online portal MoveSouq.com has recently polled 150 tenants in Dubai and the majority (83 per cent) said they have experienced issues with their villa or apartment.

The most common cause of complaint is air conditioning (AC) unit, with 50 per cent of the households claiming to have faced the issue in the last six months.

Another commonly reported maintenance problem is bursting water pipes, at 24 per cent, followed by issues that have to do with sewage, electrical connections, thin walls and water heaters, each at 20 per cent.

The research also found that, on average, each tenant in Dubai dealt with two maintenance issues during the last six months, but only less than 60 per cent tried to get professional assistance, while 40 per cent either fixed the problem themselves or did not do anything at all.

When it comes to paying for maintenance costs, a significant number of the tenants (40 per cent) said they take care of all the expenses themselves,  50 per cent said their landlords take full responsibility, while 10 per cent split the bill with the property owner.

Preeti Bhambri, managing director of personal finance site MoneyCamel.com, said that for tenants to avoid incurring hefty maintenance costs, they need to inspect the apartment and watch out for defects and faulty appliances before signing the tenancy contract.

The contract should also contain a provision that clearly states who will shoulder the maintenance-related expenses and that the faulty appliances should be replaced or fixed.

“Before starting the contract, there should be a thorough inspection of the house with the landlord to ensure all appliances including AC units are in good working conditions,” said Bhambri.

She said it would be a good idea to ask a lot of questions, such as how long the AC unit has been used or when was the last time the maintenance and cleaning were carried out.

“There should be a clause that states that any malfunctioning unit will be replaced/ repaired and there should be a predetermined amount as curtained beyond which the landlord has to pay for repair. It is advisable to distinguish between routine maintenance and repair work,” Bhambri pointed out.

“Maintenance fees with regards to cleaning and routine checks is usually paid for by the tenant. Any charges related to repair and replacement of parts should be paid by the landlord.”

The survey was conducted in partnership with Imdad, a provider of integrated facilities and waste management solutions in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.



Air conditioning complaints go ignored by Abu Dhabi property bosses

ABU DHABI // Air-conditioning troubles for tenants at an Abu Dhabi housing complex have made for a miserable summer.

Many residents of Al Reef Downtown – a community of 46 buildings with 1,818 apartments – said they have had to deal with indoor temperatures as high as 27.5°C in their units, without being able to receive an explanation for the reason why their AC units are not operating efficiently.

Mohammed Al Taher, a Jordanian national who lives in one of the buildings with his wife and two children, said the temperature of the living room in his three-bedroom apartment would not go below 27.5°C.

“It is really annoying getting home from the high temperatures outside and not being able to find a comfortable environment inside, especially in the area where the family gathers to watch television and dine,” he said.

His landlord refused to take any responsibility, so he took his concerns directly to an outside maintenance company.

Testing done by the company showed the units to be in good working order, but confirmed the temperature coming from the vents to be 19°C. It should be five degrees cooler to sufficiently cool the room.

Wasif Ahmed, an Indian expat who lives in a different building in Al Reef Downtown with his wife and two children, said the bedrooms of his apartment would not go below 22°C. And, the living room would not go below 23°C. “It is not a very comfortable temperature at this point in time,” he said.

Last year, in the same apartment, he said his apartment’s temperature could reach an “acceptable 18°C”.

After spending Dh1,800 on maintenance and another Dh600 on ceiling fans, he said he had started a petition to submit to Census International, Al Reef Downtown’s property management company, demanding that action be taken to rectify the situation.

“I am not the only person in Downtown who is experiencing this, there are numerous complaints from various buildings saying that they are having the same issue,” he said. “Some people are not even going below 25°C in their apartments, in this kind of weather that is ridiculous,” he said.

A community management representative for Census International said there had been no complaints from residents concerning air conditioning. Any issues could be solved through routine maintenance or minor repairs.

“It depends from flat to flat, it’s not about a whole building,” the representative said.

A representative with Manazel Real Estate, Al Reef’s developer, also denied having received any complaints from Al Reef Downtown residents.

Since summer started, more than a dozen residents have used Al Reef’s community Facebook page to vent their frustration about the air-conditioning problem – everything from recommendations for repairs, lack of cool air, to returning from holiday to a sweltering apartment.

Mr Ahmed said he suspected that the problem could lie with Al Reef’s district cooling, because of the large number of affected residents from different buildings.

Ben Crompton, an Abu Dhabi-based estate agent, said district cooling differs from traditional air conditioning, which uses electricity to cool units in individual apartments.

With district cooling, water is chilled at a nearby facility and pumped underground to an apartment block or set of villas.

Air travels over pipes containing the chilled water, which is then distributed to each unit, while tenants are billed for use of the chilled water.

Mr Crompton said if there were problems with the development’s district cooling, it should be felt broadly across many units in a particular development. “It would be impossible for a chilled water provider to guarantee cooling levels, but the temperature of the chilled water going to an apartment can be guaranteed,” he said.

He said factors such as the number of windows, whether you have curtains, apartment size, and whether routine maintenance of AC units is carried out can influence how effective cooling will be.

SOURCE: The National


Saving water in UAE’s mosques

Abu Dhabi: At least 25 to 30 litres of water is used per person in mosques across the UAE when performing ablutions, an Emirati professor told Gulf News.

Dr Ahmad Al Jaberi, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department, Masdar Institute, has responded to the problem by building his own device specifically designed to help reduce the amount of water used at mosques.

“In Islam, we are taught that there is a limit on how much water a person should use when carrying out the ablutions, and that volume of water is specified as 600ml. So we developed a device that is handmade and crafted here in the UAE. On the device, we put a line that marks the 600ml point,” Al Jaber said.

“Once the water reaches 600ml, it’s meant to trigger the subconscious of the worshipper, and make them stop there in line with the teachings of Islam,” he added.

However, the device itself can take in at least 1.5 litres of water. The reason this additional capacity was built into the device, said Al Jaber, is because he wanted the individual to be given the option of how much water they can use though he believes it would be good if worshippers adhered to the water limit.

“I could have just limited it to 600ml,” he said, “but people might react negatively. In the end, it’s important for the person to change their habits on their own. However, even if they use 1.5 litres of water, it’s still much less when you compare it to 25 litres of water being used at one go,” he said.

Installing the device inside mosques is a simple task, said Al Jaber. “All that’s required are four screws that attach the device to the wall below the tap. The mosque doesn’t need to undergo major infrastructure changes. There is no need to break the walls or install new electrical wiring. Just four screws and a handyman [is all it takes to get the device fixed],” said Al Jaber.

A second prototype is already under development. “The second device will have controls and smart systems that will give information on a number of things like how much water has been used, etc. We’re also thinking of having the device maintain the water at a certain temperature because sometimes the water at the mosque is either too cold or too hot.”

Al Jaber said that there must be continual innovation to help tackle modern-day issues faced by the UAE, and these challenges must be met by the contributions of other Emiratis.

“This land was a desert, a barren landscape and yet people lived in it and flourished, so there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from those experiences. I always encourage young Emirati innovators to go and talk with their grandparents, and ask them what they used to do to adjust to the harsh living conditions in the past. Their job is to take that information and use it to enhance the experience of living in modern times.”

SOURCE: Gulf News


Fixing up the maintenance industry

If you have lived in, or even just visited Dubai in the past seven or eight years, you will have almost certainly seen the purple and yellow Jim Will Fix It vans going from job to job.

Their noticeable presence not only speaks volumes about their eye-catching branding, but also the company’s success in redefining the emirate’s approach to home repairs and maintenance.

Offering a range of services including DIY, plumbing, electrics, air conditioning, carpentry, and painting and decorating, the business was founded in 2007 by two men who wanted to change a maintenance landscape which they believed was restrictive and often poor quality.

Colin Thomas and Daniel Garner both arrived in Dubai from the UK in the early years of the new millennium – Thomas with Sony PlayStation, and Garner with Morgan McKinley. But despite the heady days of pre-global financial crisis Dubai, there was something that the duo felt compelled to address. So much so that they started their own business to deal with it.

“I was living in a big place in Al Barsha, and the whole nugget of the idea came when the AC broke down,” explains Thomas.

“On three different occasions I phoned three different companies. They either needed an annual contract and wanted all the money upfront, or alternatively it was a guy who spoke no English and came with one screwdriver.

“We thought surely there’s a better way of doing maintenance than this. So we kind of started from there.”

Joining forces with Garner, the duo “sort of did it backwards” by quitting their jobs before embarking on a six-month research period, culminating in a business plan.

“We did our market research – we were stood outside Spinneys and Choithrams every evening for about a week, and that research came back to say quite clearly that there was room for something that was radically different,” continues Thomas.

“And that ‘different’ is exactly where we sat. Back home you would never have somebody coming to you saying ‘pay me £3,000 for the year and I’ll look after your house for you’. People would laugh them out the door. So we couldn’t understand why up until then Dubai had been operating in that way.”

The important thing in the early days was for people to try out the fledgling company.

“The real key to the business was: can we get the quality service without needing an annual maintenance contract, so people have the option of trying us to work out whether we›re as good as we say we are?” says Thomas.

“If we offer them a warranty not only on parts but also the service that we do, then they can have the peace of mind that they haven’t spent a small fortune before finding out whether we’re any good or not, and they have a warranty so if anything does go wrong they have that peace of mind there as well.”

The timing, however, was not ideal. The company launched in 2007, shortly before the financial crisis engulfed most of the globe. But while many new businesses were struggling to stay afloat, Thomas says Jim Will Fix It proved to be somewhat recession-proof.

He explains: “It was quite clear within a month or so that the recession was very much upon us here in Dubai and at that stage there was a big question mark of whether or not the business would work.

“But what became clear was that things break even in a recession, and you either lived with it or you get it repaired. It kind of grew exponentially from day one. And that’s continued for the last seven years which has been fantastic.”

Part of the company’s early success, according to Thomas, has been its balance between offering a full range of services, and building a reputation for honesty with clients.

“We couldn’t just look after one particular facet, like a plumbing service,” he says.

“We really needed to offer people enough of a breadth that we were almost a one-stop-shop for their maintenance needs.

“That said if there was something too specialist, unlike some companies that claim to be experts in everything, we had to be prepared to walk away from it if it wasn’t within our core expertise. That’s really helped us build a rapport with our customers. They know if it’s a job we’ve taken on then we’re good at it.”

This kind of rapport has helped Jim Will Fix It compete against other companies in the facilities management sphere, but for Thomas there is a much more important differentiator.

“What you tend to find with those guys is that they’re very much competing on price, while we’re very much competing on quality,” he explains.

“For us it was important that we had the right staff – really capable people who come to us with qualifications. For example all our AC guys are three years qualified in the Philippines and then we retrain them again, so they go through a really rigorous training process with our senior technicians to ensure they’re the required quality.

“Then we have ongoing training. So every three months they go through a refresher course on customer training, and then we have a refresher team on the road that just trains, trains, trains and shadows each of our teams.

“It’s permanent because we have to maintain that quality, even as we’re growing at a very quick rate.”

The company’s tag line – ‘one call, one visit, job done’ – is “more than just a mantra”, according to Thomas.

He explains that the quality of service needs to be strong throughout the entire process, starting with the initial call to the bookings team.

“The first call is critical because that call is for us to be able to determine that we’ve got the right person there, make sure we have the materials we need to do that job, and make sure the customer understands exactly what that job is.

“And that’s followed up by the fact that our staff are all English speaking – they are able to communicate, and are constantly retrained in communication with the customer.

“They are there to eke out the maximum amount of information so that we can go there in one visit, can get the job done, ensure it’s going to be right, and that we’ve got all the right materials to proceed.”

The company also has back-up plans in place, just in case the job turns out to be more difficult than first expected, or if parts aren’t available.

“We now have a fleet of very big vans that float around Dubai and work as mobile warehouses as well,” says Thomas.

“So if we do have a job where those parts aren’t available, there’s a good chance they’ll be in the mobile vans, so we can get the parts to people quickly and still get everything done in that one job.

“However, there are always going to be those jobs where you’ve got specific items, so when a technician is still on the roof, for example, from the roof he can call the parts team in office, and they will call in immediately the part details. The parts team will then call our driver who is already in the area of the supplier. So in effect from diagnosis to part being available, it can be as quick as half an hour. It’s something we’ve really worked on perfecting as we’ve got bigger.

“We’ve now done 55,000 jobs and we’re kind of at the stage where we’ve seen everything before, without a doubt, and we’ll know how to deal with it.”

The focus on quality is something that Thomas and Garner were adamant about from the very beginning. While starting out, they took advice from friends who had also launched businesses in Dubai, and decided that there were certain things they would leave in the hands of other professionals.

“We sat down with those guys to learn from their mistakes, and what that told us was that we didn’t need to worry about the bureaucracy of setting up. We could focus on our business and find a facilitation company to look at the set up requirements. We’ve got a great one that we still use to this day.

“There’s a real decision to make when setting up a business, which is what will you spend money on, and what will you focus on yourself. We knew that our product delivery had to be better than the lowest common denominator operators, and the established operators as well, and we couldn’t just match it, we had to be significantly, demonstratively better. We wanted to focus on that.”

That focus paid dividends almost immediately.

Despite the challenges the founders faced in the form of competition and a generally poor perception of the maintenance industry, the quality that they were so intent on establishing shone through.

“Within probably six months of us starting, Dubai’s word of mouth kicked in massively for us and it made our significant advertising efforts pale in significance,” says Thomas.

“Expat Woman was probably the best source we had for word of mouth and we were getting 60-70 percent of our work on referral alone. For us that was absolutely critical.

“As well as that, there were just huge amounts of hard work and graft. When you’re signing the cheques yourselves, and it’s money you’ve earned yourselves [the start-up money came from the founders and their families] it makes you beyond hungry to make sure it works.

“So for us it was ridiculous hours, ridiculous days. I lost a huge amount of weight, and for the first six months I spent a lot of time on the road going to the jobs, being on the roofs in 50C heat to ensure our service delivery was right, and I’m able to talk about jobs knowledgeably, which was absolutely key.”

Having established a strong following, and ensured a consistent quality of service through continual training, a system of spot checks, and customer feedback, the company began to expand its offering.

In order to provide the best possible service, Thomas explains that he and Garner keep a close eye on new products and procedures available in other parts of the world which could enhance their offering in Dubai.

One example is the addition of duct cleaning to their AC service. Thomas explains that they have brought in a specific piece of equipment from the US which cleans AC units and ducts much more quickly and efficiently than they were previously able to do.

Another new addition to the company’s offerings is window cleaning, which is due to be available by the end of 2015. “Not a mop and bucket,” says Thomas, but a high tech system that’s being brought in from the UK and uses pure water as the main cleaning method to eliminate smears and droplet marks caused by ‘total dissolved solids’ (TDS).

With any new product, there needs to be a tangible benefit to the customer and the company, explains Thomas.

“If we can keep our quality level, but use the technology to make it faster while maintaining that quality, and get to the point where we reach a really nice competitive price, then it means it’s feasible for the Dubai market, and feasible for us.

“There’s a bit of chicken and egg situation with new products, in as much as we know it’s being used in a certain way, but can we tweak it to get the quality we need, and can we get the economies of scale that we need to get to a price that will make it mainstream in Dubai?”

The answer for an increasing number of products appears to be yes. But while the breadth of what they are able to do is increasing, the geography in which they do it is not. Yet.

“At the moment we’re in Dubai, and the reason we’ve stuck to Dubai so far is that for our services and the reputation we have here, we have a really strong amount of growth year on year, every year,” continues Thomas.

“But we are looking at Abu Dhabi, without a doubt – it’s just a case of how soon we will roll it out.

“We also get approached on an almost weekly basis for franchises abroad. To date we’ve decided not to do that. It’s so critical that anything we do, we do to our quality level, and to package all of that up into a little manual is not really possible in the way it might be for a fast food outlet.

‘If our key is quality, then it doesn’t really franchise that well, in our view, and we have to stick to maintaining that quality.”

Speaking with Thomas, it is clear that his business is about much more than making money. The company’s dedication to quality service is matched by the partners’ assertion that it should be a place their employees feel comfortable working, and also a company that isn’t afraid to work hard for a good cause.

A prime example of this occurred earlier this year when Nepal was struck by an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, killing thousands, injuring many more, and leaving hundreds of thousands of others homeless and without provisions, clothing or belongings.

“The night when all of the news reports were coming in from Nepal, Dan gave me a phone call and said we really need to get involved with this,” says Thomas.

“We realised that we’ve got a whole bunch of vans in Dubai, a huge amount of customers looking for an outlet to donate to Nepal, and it was quite clear we needed to move quickly.

“Dan drove to Abu Dhabi, to the Nepalese embassy, and agreed with them that we would collect and donate directly to them.

“We arranged with our customers that anyone who wanted to donate, we would pick up from their houses, collate it back at the warehouse, and then take it down to the embassy ourselves. In the end it all went pretty crazy – we ended up with 11 tonnes of donations, which to give you an idea is three of our massive vans filled to the gunnels.

“We turned up there and it was the most amazing sight. There were hundreds of Nepalese workers from around the UAE who were just at the embassy to help. They didn’t know what they were helping with, but they were there just to help.

“It was such a positive atmosphere – we had these human chains that got rid of these 11 tonnes in about 45 minutes. It was just a constant shaking of hands, and a real feeling of positivity about getting Nepal back on its feet. It was an amazing experience, and something that we’d really like to it again.”

It’s an episode that speaks volumes about what Thomas and Garner stand for, and the ethos that they infuse into their business.

People are at the heart of what they do, and the quality they are keen to provide at every turn is a constant reminder of this.

Having helped fix the reputation of the maintenance sector in Dubai, no doubt Jim Will Fix It will continue to be at the forefront of its development in the future.

SOURCE: Arabian Business


A gradual makeover for UAE’s retail sector

Over the course of this year retailers have been reporting flat to lower sales year on year. While the level of variation depends on the type of business, across sectors — fashion, accessories, jewellery, furniture, food — few would be able to report the kind of growths that they were used to seeing between 2011-14.

What is perplexing though is that the drive of brands to enter this market is not abating. New operators and brands are still vigorously pushing for locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And the lack of availability of spaces in the large regional malls is resulting in a spillover into smaller developments or even onto the high-street.


Major developers are still seeing growth in their retail businesses both in terms of revenue as well as profitability. But the fact of the matter is that:

• Retailers who are already in malls are loathe to vacate spaces even if their stores are not profitable; and

• New operators are still queuing up for space and are ready to jump in if at all there is a vacancy.

This is creating an anomalous situation. While existing retailers are complaining about decline of business and profitability, rents are continuing to spiral upwards.

Why would a new unproven mall with a new untested operator be able to get a rental of Dh600-Dh700 per square foot on his property in Umm Suqeim and be able to pre-rent before it is completed? Even high-street stores on Jumeirah Road are asking for rents of Dh350-Dh500 per square foot, and stores on Shaikh Zayed Road are commanding key money in the millions.

These are rates that were unheard of outside of the major developments and they indicate two realities that bode well for this region —

• There is still tremendous confidence in the economy and people are willing to bet that the downturn will not last; and

• Retailers and operators in other parts of the world continue to find traction and growth here, unlike in their own markets.

It is well accepted that business here is invariably dovetailed with the health of other regions. The years 2011-14 were booming with the buoyancy of business in China and Russia. This was reflected in the inflow of customers from those regions as tourists as well as buyers. The current downturn in those markets has directly affected the market here.

But as has always happened in the past, Dubai will find some market to give it a push when it faces a downturn. And perhaps the situation will change if business with the neighbouring giant Iran opens up as a result of the agreements that are now being finalised. It is reassuring to see major developers trying to build new revenue streams. They are busy remodelling, renovating and rebuilding their assets to monetise currently unused spaces or even common spaces. Where possible, extensions are also being built.

They are also engaged in the development of smaller neighbourhood centres. In the next two to three years, we will find at least 10 new small centres around Dubai, which will take some of the pressure off the regional malls.

But these are midterm solutions. For now the worry is how long will they succumb to the temptation to continue to strengthen their bottom-lines through rent increases?

Rental rates at the major malls become the benchmark for other properties in the city, resulting in the unrealistic rates that we see. The rent increases are progressively raising retail break-evens, making them difficult to achieve even for seasoned operators.

As a result, the market is gradually getting restructured. In the present environment for any retailer to succeed he has to factor into his plans —

• A quick expansion into a network of shops. Sustaining and running a business with just one location is now practically unviable;

• A longer break even period which could be anything from three to five years, unlike the earlier days when one could start making a profit in the first year; and

• As a consequence of the above two points, a much larger capital provision is required to start and sustain a new business. It needs mentioning, that contrary to all the declarations, bank finance is generally not forthcoming for the first two years of the business. So the investor is on his own in his initial journey.

Some people feel this is making our markets more realistic, bringing them into line with what is happening in the rest of the world. On the other hand, it is taking away some of the traditional attractions of doing business here — low cost, easy entry and quick returns.


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